Old Maids and Fairy Tales

This post originally appeared on my MySpace blog in 2007 back in the day when I actually maintained a MySpace page.  That was in the pre-FB days.  My, how things have changed!  I migrated this piece over to CABsPlace when I originally started blogging.  I’m moving it here now, because it is vintage Wild Mind thinking…with some minor updates. Let me know what you think. 

cinderella-stories-with-the-disney-princesses-8236784-800-600I was one of those misguided people who grew up with the idea that somehow the right way, or the good way or the proper way to do the "fairy tale" was to go to college, meet Mr.. Prince Charming, upon graduation get married and then begin doing life.  I was also under the misguided impression that if I wasn’t engaged by the time I graduated, my odds of ever getting married were rapidly declining and I was running the risk of dying an "old maid". 

Now, I have no idea where I came up with these absolutely ludicrous ideas.  I mean, my mother certainly didn’t instill those into me.  In fact, she was the one who constantly admonished me to spend time figuring out who I was, what I wanted and what I was about before even entering into marriage.  It was her voice that encouraged me to spend a few years after college being single and on my own so I could learn whatever I needed to learn to be able to stand on my own two feet.  My father agreed with my mother on that score and together they actually taught me to reason logically, value education and intelligence and to stand my ground in the face of adversity. 

Their relationship, at least from my perspective, didn’t look at all like the fairy tale I envisioned.  They got married after being divorced twice in front of the justice of the peace, for crying out loud!  No, white horse drawn glittery carriage for them.  Though, I have to admit that my dad, who was an amateur rock hound and who cut and polished his own semi-precious stones as a hobby, did all right where the ring came into play.  He cut, polished and had set the most beautiful blue sapphire I have to this date ever seen.  It was huge.  It was sparkly. It was some serious bling! It was gorgeous and it had fairy tale written all over it.  Come to think of it, it was probably as big as Cinderella’s carriage…but I digress.

My parents were practical, responsible, intelligent people.  They’d lived long enough to have the fairy tale beaten out of them. Or maybe they had learned along the way that the fairy tale exists, it just doesn’t always look the way the storybooks and Disney portray it.  Hmmm.

But…being young, headstrong and unwilling to consider (at least at that age) that my parents even had a clue about how to do life, much less that they actually made good choices in the romance department, I did not listen.  Instead, I forged ahead, dreaming of the day when my own fairy tale would be realized. 

Anyone who spoke to me of enjoying being single and seeking my own life independent of any man was received by me with the same response most folks would give Dracula.  I didn’t exactly pay them any heed.  In fact, I smiled nicely and avoided them like the plague.

Fast forward, two marriages, four children, and a quarter of a century later and I’m thinking my parents and all those well intentioned advisors may have had it right all along.  No, not may have, they did have it right all along.  Instead of seriously considering spending my 20’s discovering me and learning to be comfortable with me, which would have then later helped me to recognize Mr.. Prince Charming and make a more informed marital decision, I jumped into marriage.  I didn’t know him, I didn’t know me, I had no experience with which to make decisions and I was very miserable for many many years and it spiraled out of control less than 20 years in.  When I self-destructed as the result of my own self designed disaster, my "fairy tale" self-destructed.  You’d think I’d have learned from my mistake.  You’d think. But no, I tried to fix the first wrong, by committing a second one.  I married a second time only a brief two months after the ink was dry on my first divorce.  As you might imagine, thus began the nightmare from which I couldn’t awaken and it lasted for six long and terrifying years.

My parents had it mostly right all along. I should have taken my twenties to just get to know me as I am.  I should have taken the time, as my mother advised, to figure out what my likes and dislikes are…apart from parental admonitions.  Apart from a significant other’s overbearing demands.  Apart. Alone.  Me.  Unedited.

Now, today, here I am, a lifetime later (it seems), taking their advice.  I am, at 40+,  doing what I should have done 25 years ago.  I am a slow learner.  In the education world we call that the student who needs more time.  I guess, that’s me.  I needed more time…and now I’m taking it.  But, to be honest, it’s really not easy at this stage of the game. 

You see, when I was twenty, I had better odds of having more time.  In my mid-40’s, it’s likely, I don’t have that kind of time left.  There is the sense, in some ways, that time is running out, and, to be honest that worries me occasionally.  But it only worries me sometimes, not all the time.  I don’t dwell on it ever.  In fact, I have reached the point where I mostly don’t care.  I am no longer afraid of being the "old maid", because simply stated, the old maid doesn’t exist, and even if she does and even if I were her, after what I’ve been through, I can confidently say there are fates worse than that.  I’ve lived one of them already.  I’m not soon going to sign up for it again.

Young people today are waiting longer to get married and that, in my mind is wise.  Some, no many, are choosing never to marry, even though they could.  People are living longer, women even older than me are far more active for far many years than in past generations.  I look around and see many women who are single, divorced, widowed and I don’t see a single old maid among them.  I see people choosing life, enjoying life and making choices that work for them, because they know themselves well enough to say yes to the options that they know they can live with and enjoy.  They easily and without apology say no to the options or choices that would be unhealthy or damaging for them.  They do this because they know who they are and what their limits are.  This is a very good thing.

So, as the mother of three daughters and one son, I’ve worked hard to debunk the Old Maid myth and rewrite the fairy tale.  I’ve worked hard to encourage my children to be themselves and get to know themselves.  This requires some detachment at times as a parent.  It also requires skill in listening, accepting and keeping lines of communication open.  Critical, judgmental and harsh evaluations cannot be entertained.

Do I always enjoy hearing about my daughter’s latest agony with a guy she likes, a catty girlfriend who just betrayed her, or the relational stresses any of them might at any time be experiencing? Hmmm, no, sometimes it’s just too much information, but I’d rather she discuss it with me than not.  It also gives us the opportunity to practice taking a look at who she is, what she’s about, what her personal goals are and how all the noise around her fits into that.  In the end, I can’t walk with her into her fairy tale, but I can give her the tools to write it for herself in whatever manner she chooses. And, I can help free her from the Disney image of what that fairy tale must look like.  This is what I am doing with her and each of her siblings in turn.

As for me?

Well…sigh. 

I often think my chance at love, romance and enjoying life with Prince Charming may be well past.  I hope not.  As a realist, I have to entertain the idea that this just might be my reality.  I have to move on. I have to deal with me.

cameron_diaz_mike_myers_shrek_001If he does appear…my Prince Charming doesn’t have to fight any dragons or wake me with a kiss from an endless, enchanted sleep.  In fact, he doesn’t have to do anything. He just has to be honestly, to the core, himself.  No apologies.  I imagine when he finally rides onto the scene, I will be busy ruling my kingdom, he will be busy ruling his, and we will know ourselves well enough to recognize that what we have together has all the makings of a very fine fairy tail. It won’t look like Disney.  At this point, it might not even look as good as my parents’ fairy tale, but, then, it might look a whole lot better too. It won’t matter, with any luck we’ll recognize each other when we cross paths and we’ll know the fairy tale we want to create and we won’t hesitate to set about making it happen.

Until then, I’m defeating the scary dragons that threaten on occasion to consume my castle and my kingdom on my own, doing quite well at it and enjoying, well, almost every minute of it.

After reading that, I realize, it is probably geared mostly toward my female audience.  I’ve been doing some thinking though lately and my hunch is that men aren’t so “undesirous” of the fairy tale as we might be led to believe.  It might look different to a guy.  I don’t know. It’d be nice to hear what some men out there think about the fairy tale.  I think maybe we are all closer to being on the same page than we think about what we want and hope for in relationship.  What do you think?

9 thoughts on “Old Maids and Fairy Tales

  1. “Vintage Wild Mind Thinking” – that alone makes this piece of writing!

    Ah, the fairy tale. For little people. The problem is when we get a little bit bigger, and still want to believe.

    It would be interesting to hear what the men think. If they ever believed it, what their version of it is, if so.

    (BTW – have moved! now at http://dailyplateofcrazy.com)

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  2. We are all pressured by your influentials early in life to choose a path that may not be right for us, or that we are not ready for yet. Carl Jung puts much time in explaining that our ‘Persona’ is constructed from external forces and not originally made from the ‘Self.’ At some point we realize that the Self needs to be expressed and flow to the surface. When that happens, oh boy do the fireworks begin!

    Whether at 20 or 40+ it is never too late to find your ‘Self’ and become the person that you are best suited to be. It will then become apparent what your needs will be and the path to take.

    It will then become apparent who will travel that path with you. In the mean time WildMind, it is important to enjoy the ride and relish every sunrise. And I know you do 😉

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    1. Agreed, jassnight! I do wish, in retrospect, that I had taken this time earlier. It would have been so much more fun in my twenties, with no kids and lots (to me at that time it was lots) of income with little overhead to be concerned about. Even so, you are completely accurate about me I am enjoying the ride most of the time and relishing ever sunrise (well, every sunrise that I am up for) and I’m digging the sunsets too! Even in winter.

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  3. Even if we don’t buy into the fairy tale, we probably have, or had when we were younger, some preconceived notion of how life is suppose to go. I never thought, growing up, that I would get married. I distrusted the institution. My parents divorced when I was 5. Both remarried, my father a couple of years later and my mother a decade later. Yet, I was in a church a few months out of my bachelor’s degree, pregnant and getting married. If it had not been for the pregnancy, I would have been looking for apartments in any of a number of cities where I had been accepted to grad school.

    Do I regret the path? No, as I love my children, but if I had known myself better, I probably would not have traveled this path.

    Do I want my children thinking this is the path to go down? Definitely not.

    Thanks for bring this over!!!!

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  4. Great post! I too married in my 20s before i’d really gotten to know myself and what I wanted in life. When I finally figured that out in my 30s, I couldn’t stay married. Now that I’m in my 40s, with kids who are teens, I’m ready for a partner again. I’m not desperately seeking one, as the past years have shown I can get by on my own. But I do miss companionship, built-in hugs, nightly spooning, someone else to cook on occasion, being part of a couple at dinner parties, etc…. Not a pity party – I totally enjoy being single. But being coupled can be good, too.

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    1. dadshouse,
      I so agree, no pity party here either about being single. Maybe a bit of wistfulness about wasting time being a complete idiot.
      You’re so right about the up side to being coupled. 😀

      Like

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